Encountering racism is stressful, but did you know that even the fear of discrimination can cause high blood pressure?
A report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated to health and health care, found that hypervigilance—the tension and anxiety people feel when they fear they will experience discrimination—contributes to higher rates of hypertension among Blacks.
“We think that the chronic activation of the biological stress response system that takes place when a person anticipates a negative event like encountering discrimination is what contributes to the higher rates of hypertension among the Blacks in our study,” said Margaret Hicken, PhD, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar and the study’s leader.
In cases where racism-related vigilance is low or absent, Blacks and Whites have similar levels of hypertension. But when people report chronic vigilance, the rates in Blacks rise significantly.Disparities in hypertension are considered a significant contributor to health disparities overall in the United States.